Guinataang paco |

Guinataang paco

It seems redundant to call this dish guinataang paco fern considering that paco is the local name for the tender sprouts of vegetable fern. Yet, a lot of recipes on web refer to it that way — paco fern. It is vegetable fern, an edible fern to be more precise, and we call it paco in the Philippines. Ambulant vendors used to pass by the house and my father would buy bunches of paco from them.
These days, paco is rather hard to find in the market. So when I saw bunches at the supermarket earlier today, I took two and cooked them for dinner.

Some people like to prepare paco as a salad; personally, I haven’t tried that. My father used to cook paco with pork and coconut cream and that was how I was introduced to this vegetable.

This is how paco looks like: Talbos ng paco (tender sprouts of vegetable fern)

I understand that there is more than one variety of edible fern; I think this is the one called Diplazium esculentum. If you search Google for images of Diplazium esculentum (like this one in Wikipedia), you will notice that it does not even remotely resemble the one in my photo. That may be because the fern in the photo is a different variety. Or it may, in fact, be Diplazium esculentum but looks different because the edible portions of the fern are the tender sprouts rather than the mature leaves. I don’t really care about all that; I’m a cook and my real interest in the plant is the fact that they are edible and incredibly delicious. So let’s just skip all the scientific blah-blah and proceed to the cooking part. Saute garlic, ginger, onion, tomato and pork

For 400 grams of paco, you will need about 150 grams of pork, a whole head of garlic, a thick slice of ginger, one large or two medium-sized tomatoes, two finger chilis, and one large or two medium-sized onions.

Cut the pork into small pieces, peel and mince the garlic, peel and slice the onions, dice the tomatoes, break the chilis in half and peel and finely slice the ginger.

Heat two tablespoonfuls of cooking oil in a pan and throw everything in. Never mind sauteeing the garlic and onion first, you’ll get the same result. Cooking vegetable fern, Filipino style

Cook over high heat until the vegetables start to soften and the tomatoes start to render its color.

Pour in about two tablespoonfuls of patis (fish sauce), stir, lower the heat, cover and simmer for about 30 minutes or until the pork is tender. There is no need to add water. The patis and juices from the pork and vegetables are enough. Trim the fern, discarding the stalks

While the pork cooks, trim the paco by separating the soft and tough stalks. Discard the tough stalks. Sauteed pork, garlic, chili peppers, tomatoes, ginger and onion

Above, that’s how the pork and sauteed vegetables looked after 30 minutes of simmering. They ready for the next step. Add the vegetable fern to the pot

Add the trimmed paco to the pot. Pour in the coconut cream

Pour in 3/4 to one cup of coconut cream. Stir. Cover and simmer until the paco stalks are tender, about 10 minutes. Taste the sauce, add more patis if necessary. Guinataang taalbos ng paco

And that is the cooked dish. The paco has rendered some of its color turning the coconut cream sauce a shade of light green. Cooked, the paco is a bit crunchy (well, unless you overcook them) and slippery and tasty.


  1. chexy says

    We were just talking about how sarap the paco is… and how hard it is to come by…. hmmmnn… paco hunting here we come!!! hehehehe!

  2. Rose says

    This edible fern is a delicacy in East Malaysia, where I come from. The recipe you have is very similar to how I like to eat it, except without the pork and we usually add dried shrimp or anchovies :) It’s impossible to find here in Australia, so I’ll make sure to find it again when I go back home for a holiday!

  3. jinky says

    I always see this vegetables everytime I went to a “Tabo” (a tiangge where farmers gather and bring their farm produce, so its guaranteed fresh) I havent tried buying it coz i dont have any idea whats the best way to cook it. Come Saturday (its held every Wednesday and Saturday) I will buy a couple of bunches and try your recipe Ms. Connie, thanks!!

  4. says

    Jinky, click “Ignore” when you see the warning page. Kasi, Google and Firebox will both have to “relearn” the status of the pages (that the malicious script has been removed) and that might take a day or two. I have already sent a “review” notice to Google to facilitate things.

  5. JOEY TOSINO says

    another post, another vegetable learned.
    wala akong idea kung ano ang paco. ngayon ko lang nalaman ang tungkol dito. thanks Con.

  6. says

    That is a perfect dish! I haven’t seen ferns in the regular grocery store but perhaps they can be found at the farmer’s market.

    Instead of pork and fish sauce, could this dish be made with fish instead?

  7. Gena cockerell says

    Hi Connie,
    Fern is a national icon here in New Zealand.We have a sports team that named Silver Ferns which is the netball team of NZ.The maori people here called the paco (piko-piko)I tried paco when i went to Baler province.Me and my cousins went gathering in the bush there was plenty where they live.
    I haven’t tried fern here in NZ.Quite a lot of chef use them now in the restaurant.

  8. says

    [eating club] Vancouver and Joey, I hope you can find paco in North America. :)

    Nate, yes, but you’ll have to cook the fish separately and add them to the pot when the paco is almost done. That way, they won’t fall apart. Oh, some people use dried salted fish and it’s pretty good too.

    Gena, paco is available there all year round? Nice, ha.

  9. jadedfork says

    Hi Connie

    Yes, we have paco (called fiddlehead ferns) here in the northeast but usually around spring time only. They’re not always available at all supermarkets but I’ve seen them at Whole Foods and local farmers markets.

    This is so interesting. I’ve never tried them as guinataan before. Will have to wait for spring though :)

  10. bem says

    wow, paco! ang tagal ko na ‘di nakakain niyan. masarap din siya with kuhol, or suso, or sardines. :p

  11. Renato San Mateo says

    The first time I had PACO was at the late Ernest Santiago’s Resto where it was served as a salad with a dressing made of olive oil and lots of crushed garlic and topped with kesong puti and I think they added sliced fresh tomatos.

    I had a chance to try it once again at this resto in Malate, this time served with tomato and salted red eggs also salad style with a dressing that i didn’t quite enjoy.

    I always thought that serving PACO raw was the only way the vegetable could be prepared and had no idea that it could be cooked untill I read this recipe entry.
    And to my surprise, it even uses GATA – one of my favorite cooking ingredients!

    Truly, we learn something new everyday! Thank you Ms. Connie for such a wonderful website.

  12. says

    So saying ‘paco fern’ is like pizza pie then?:) I have never had the pleasure of trying paco, but I do like the sound of it. In order to try your recipe, if one has no access to paco, is there any vegetable remotely similar in taste or texture? As someone in the know mentioned paco is not seen on Australian shelves unfortunately.

  13. says

    Coby, re “So saying “?paco fern”? is like pizza pie then?”

    What gives you that impression? Neither the entry nor any of the comments suggest that.

  14. claris says

    hi connie! i’ve been here in china for a month now and all i have eaten are stir-fried everything… your site makes me wanna go home and eat anything that’s not stir-fried. btw, i have tried paco salad in Kusina ni Salud, located in San Pablo City, Laguna. It was really fantastic! This resto is owned by Ms. Patis Tesoro. You should try this sometime…

  15. says

    there’s much of those paco in Sagada, when i was a kid, id go by the valley and gather what i could carry.

    Up in the mountains, we only blanch the “pako” or add it to vegetable salads

  16. lemon says

    My mom used to eat paco salad on a regular basis when she turned vegetarian after being diagnosed with the Big C.

    For 2 Sundays already, I’ve been scouting for paco in the wet market, but I couldn’t find any.

  17. dezerie rico says

    anu pu bang nutrients nakukuha sa paco? may iba pa po bang ibang pwdeng mgawa sa edible na paco?

  18. Marlyn Bleich says

    My mom is from Leyte (Waray) and aside from Laing this is her most fave dish. Too bad we can’t find it here in Florida.

    By the way, I just came across this website of yours today and I really like everything about it. The recipes are really good and easy to follow and the pictures are awesome! And the interactions are really helpful. Kudos!!!

  19. Lara says

    I love Paco a lot! I would always ask my lola to bring some for me whenever she’s coming to Manila from Ilocos! I love your recipe! Such a great idea! Thank You!!! God bless you.